History of the Bureau of Freedmen and Refugees
March 10, 1868
1. About half of the deaths from disease during the Civil War were caused by intestinal disorders, mainly
typhoid fever, diarrhea, and dysentery. The remainder died from pneumonia and tuberculosis. Camps
populated by young soldiers who had never before been exposed to a large variety of common
contagious diseases were plagued by outbreaks of measles, chickenpox, mumps, and whooping cough.
2. Small pox victims in the Civil War were taken to "pest" hospitals. These special hospitals were staffed
by workers who were innoculated. The disease was allowed to run its course with the patient receiving
good nutrition and plenty of fresh air. A good example of this is Drayton Hall outside of Charleston,
South Carolina that was used as a small pox hospital after the United States Army captured Charleston.
The fact that it was used as a small pox hospital is probably the reason that this house escaped burning.
3. 1673 Inoculation against smallpox appears in Denmark. 1717 Innoculation against smallpox instituted
in England by Lady Mary Montague after she returns from Turkey, where it was in a popular
experimental stage at the time. 1721 In the United States, Cotton Mather attempts to introduce a crude
form of smallpox vaccination by smearing smallpox pus into scratches in healthy people. Over 220
people are treated during the first six months of experimentation. Only six had no apparent reaction.
Mather was bitterly attacked for recommending this practice. Boston, Massachusetts. In 1865 antiseptic
4. Cholera - Prevention of the disease is normally straightforward if proper sanitation practices are
followed. The last major outbreak of cholera in the United States occurred in 1910â€“1911. Effective
sanitation practices, if instituted and adhered to in time, are usually sufficient to stop an epidemic.
5. Typhoid - Typhoid fever was even more devastating caused by the consumption of food or water
contaminated by salmonella bacteria. Epidemics of malaria spread through camps located next to
stagnant swamps teeming with anopheles mosquito. Although treatment with quinine reduced fatalities,
malaria nevertheless struck approximately one quarter of all servicemen; the United States army alone
reported one million cases of it during the course of the war. Poor diet and exposure to the elements only
added to the burden. A simple cold often developed into pneumonia, which was the third leading killer
disease of the war, after typhoid and dysentery.